Beginnings

 

Beginnings

 

I was born on Aurora, the most beautiful island you can imagine, 19 years before my life abruptly changed. Aurora is a green and lush island surrounded by the violent blue sea. My father, Peter Salem Jones, was the executioner of Stevensport. He was a good and kind man, or at least I always knew him as such. I know being a headsman means bringing pain and death to fellow human beings, but with my best will, I cannot imagine my father doing so, but I also know that he must have. I don’t know what led him to such a fate, I only know it influenced my childhood greatly, for no one will be friends with the hangmans daughter. My mother, Rebecca Illirius, was of better birth, but married my father out of love and his business out of necessity. Her brother, and my uncle, was the bishop of Aurora and a very important man. As I had no friends, I became very close to my siblings, especially my older brother, Daniel, who is three years my elder. There is also John, 4 years younger than me, Matthew, 7 years younger and Janet, 8 years younger. There were also Bridget, who died very young of tuberculosis, the sickness which also took my mother. I was 10 years old at the time, and became mother to them all then.

 

I remember sunny summer days when Daniel and I played catch in the backyard, while Father sharpened his tools and looked upon us smiling. I remember Mother calling for us, when we were out fishing in one of the small skiffs. Her skirts blowing in the wind and her clear voice carrying across the waves: ”Come home, sweet ones. Come to your family”. And we would come. We were a very closely knit family – we had no one else. I also remember moonlit nights, when I would stare up at the sky and dream of lands far away. I would dream that I was a normal girl, with a normal life and friends. I dreamed of being someone that people could look upon without unconsciously shuddering. Then I would turn back to my bed, ashamed of not being proud of my own self. Mother always said to us : ”Believe in yourselves. Believe you can become anything. Carry your own light”. She thought all her children carried our own light, and that made us very special. And we were special – we were outcasts. But not unhappy, just longing for something else.

 

I used to run errands for my uncle, Daniel Illirius, the bishop. I’m told that I’m pretty, and I know I’m polite, so I made a good carrier of messages to and from my uncle. We could use the extra money and I enjoyed getting out among people, who didn’t always know who I was. One day 3 strangers came from Ryendor across the sea and called upon my uncle for help. Since they didn’t speak auroran and didn’t know their way around the city, my uncle asked me to be their guide and translator, while they stayed here. My mother had taught me the ryendorian language, and though I didn’t speak it fluently, I spoke it well enough to get by. My mother had grown up in Ryendor and had told me many tales of that strange and awesome land. It’s a land of strong religion, but without dedication. People are not religious in their everyday life. They sin during the day and repent in church and gets absolution at midnight mass. They claim piety, but have it not.

 

Aurora is a religious and puritan island. We serve God through humility and self sacrifice. We show our devotion to God not through splendour, but through humble obedience to his word and being. We do not drink or party like they do in Ryendor. So off course the three strangers found Aurora to be a very dull place. And I thought them quite extravagant.

 

The three strangers were : Father Cidron De Champ, a very powerful and charismatic priest and witchhunter, working for the inquisition in Ryendor, Tierry Emanuel Baptiste, a baldheaded warrior, and lover of drink and women and Alexander Jean-luc Dûfou, a handsome, almost pretty, nobleman. They were on the business of one Baron Armenius from Zorenstadt. Apparently they were here on political business, of which I had no interest or knowledge at the time. I knew only this : 4 months previously Lord Vendeuer, the prince of Aurora, and his wife had died, leaving their 5-year-old son, William, on the throne. Prince Williams elder sister, Elizabeth, had fled from the island, and no one knew where she was now. Some said she had fled with a lover and carried a bastard child, but I find that very unlikely, since she was only 12 years old. Lord Kendric, the prince’s cousin, was now regent in Prince Williams place. I must admit, I had never thought of him as a man of importance, before he was named regent, though he also was marquis of Stevensport. I guess it shows my interest in Auroran politics and power… My uncle, Bishop Illirius, supported the close contact to the continent opposed to the alliance with the Islands, which I didn’t know or care about at the time. The three ryendorian gentlemen would soon open my eyes. Lord Kendrics alliances no one knew of at the time.

 

They had a fourth companion with them, but I never met him. He was a bard, they said, but he was lying sick in his bed almost all the time he was i Stevensport.

 

On the first evening of our acquaintance the three strangers would be going to the ball held to celebrate the opening of the Parliament at Lord Kendrics palace, and I was invited to join them! My uncle gave me money to buy a dress and what a dress! I had never worn or even seen its like. I was used to flax and wool. And now soft silk caressed my body and I’m sure that just wearing silk must be sinful! The ball was fantastic! All the fine ladies and gentlemen prancing about, the light, the food and drink. There was nothing of puritan Aurora at that party. I felt completely out of place and had no idea of how to behave. I wished I could be a fly on the wall instead – watching everything and noticed by no one. I was even asked to dance by a young gentleman, and I’m afraid I was no good at it. But charming he was and forgiving of my mistakes. The three strangers told me that they were there to hear what peoples alliances were and of how Lord Kendric stood politically. And, they said, they were looking for a second account of Aurora’s economics that Lord Kendric were supposed to keep. I guess I got caught up in it right there and then, since I took it upon myself to sneak around in the more closed-off parts of the palace to see, what I could find out. I spoke pleasantly with a guard, who was supposed to keep my kind out, but as he wanted to impress me, he let me in. Prettiness can be handy sometimes, I’ve discovered, though people always seem to want more from me than I’m willing to give. I’m well brought up, and had no intentions of giving my chastity away to the first young man that came along. Eventually I found myself standing outside a heavy curtain, behind which I heard voices. I recognized one of them to be Lord Kendrics. The others were unknown to me, but they spoke ryendorian! The voices were so muffled, though, that I couldn’t hear what they talked about. I found my way back to the more crowded ballroom and ran into Tierry. I told him what I had seen and heard, and he asked me to lead him back to the place. A bit of sneaking about resulted in nothing, except us being in a place where we shouldn’t be, and guards approaching! We sneaked out onto a dark balcony, and the guards kept getting closer. It sounded like they were searching for someone (probably us) and the moment they drew away the curtain to the balcony, an idea struck me. I threw myself into Tierry’s arms and kissed him soundly. Though he seemed surprised, he didn’t object at all. So what the guards thought they saw, when they found us, was two lovers just trying to be alone. They spoke harshly at us, and we looked very sorry, and they let us go. Phew! Close call! Tierry was impressed by my quick thinking, and I must say, I was quite proud of it myself. Alex and father Cidron had already left the party, and we met up with them in the inn they stayed in. The bard they travelled with had apparently left his room, only to be beaten up, trown over a cliff and brought back half-dead. He was lying in his room in quite a bad state. For some reason or other father Cidron believed he was or had been possessed by some demon, and the father performed an exorcism on him.

 

When Tierry and I returned to them and told what we (or rather I) had seen and heard, father Cidron decided that we had better go back to the castle and find the second account of Lord Kendrics this very night. You might think it odd that I didn’t object to breaking in and entering the castle of my country’s regent, rummage through his private chambers, and unveiling his secrets. Looking back upon it I do too. I guess I was too much awe of father Cidron – everything he said seemed right to me. And after that night I truly believed that he was blessed by the Light. We broke into the castle. Alex and Tierry were quickly discovered and had to flee with palace guards in hot pursuit. Father Cidron and I seemed to be invisible. No one saw us, even when they should have. We had a lot of close calls, but the Light held his hand over us. By a stroke of luck we located Lord Kendrics secret office and his secret ledger, which we brought with us.

 

We went straight to my uncle, the bishop, and showed him the secret ledger. But it didn’t please him at all. Whatever the ledger proved (I never figured that out), it was dangerous knowledge to hold. My uncle forced me to choose then and there between him and this mad quest father Cidron seemed to be on. I was so convinced at the time that the Light shone with special pleasure on father Cidron’s path that I in my bedazzlement chose to follow him. It seems a little mad now, that I would bid my family farewell on such a short notice, but it seemed right at the time. It was like some major force had reached in and touched my destiny. My own path had suddenly appeared before me – a way out of the dreary life of no friends and no future. I believed that if I followed this terrifyingly gifted man I would find the life I had dreamt of allways. And I was right in a way…

 

The days that followed were full of madness. Having stolen Lord Kendric’s secret ledger wasn’t the smartest to do, if one wanted to stay on the island and live. Suddenly a lot of people were after us, shooting at us through windows, poisoning us (Tierry had a bad experience with a pretty young woman in a bathhouse, where she poisoned him, and interrogated him, while he was drugged) and in other ways put our lives in danger. One name in particular seemed to surface every time my new friends tried to name our enemy; Martin of Zorenstadt. My uncle would not help us out of the mire we were in – which looking back made completely sense. I wouldn’t have either in his place. But he did give me a final warning: The lord Kendric kept an eye on my father. In times to come all would be asked to take sides, and my fathers position could become central.

 

Helping us to flee was the strange and disturbing death of the bard my friends had travelled with. He leaped or was thrown out of his window to his death in the street below. Father Cidron was convinced that a demon had ended his miserable life, and started screaming ‘witchcraft’ and ‘demons’. Suddenly the city was ablaze and we left my beloved island in complete uproar. We managed to flee on ‘La Roi de Mere’ along with the ryendor gentlemen that Lord Kendric had spoken with on the night of the ball. Apparently my island was in uproar in more than more way, for the rumours I heard after we arrived in Ryendor, involved rebellion and war. I remember standing at the stern of the ship and staring back at my homeland, weeping bitter tears because I knew that I would not be able to return for a long time, maybe never.

 

As I sailed into Zorenstadt I watched the gastly sight of the ryendor fleet setting out to sea. Again I wept for my poor country, and my poor family that I had left behind. I had not had a chance to see them before I left, but I had left a letter for my father with a farewell and a warning to stay neutral in order to survive in the coming troubles.

 

Ryendor was different than I had thought. It seemed chaotic to my eyes. There were more noise, and more people. They wore bright clothes and smiled often. At first I saw the ryendor people as sinful and godless, but I came to realize that they had a firmer grasp of what life and joy of life is all about – but without regard for the Light. But even though I still miss my childhood’s island’s green slopes and crashing waves, and my family, I have never regretted leaving with father Cidron, Tierry and Alex. If I hadn’t I would never have become what I became.

 

Tierry and Alex reported back to their employer the Baron Armenius about their exploits on Aurora, and Father Cidron did the same to his employer (as it turned out) the bishop of Zorenstadt. Even though I didn’t take up contract with either employer, my three companions now seemed to consider me part of their group. I guess they felt they owed it to me to take care of me, since it was their fault I had to leave Aurora.

 

After only a few days in Ryendor strange things began to happen. Alex was approached by a young red-headed girl in northlander clothes, and asked about the demon we apparently had encountered on Aurora. The woman even came to me in my dreams and asked questions about father Cidron and the demon in Stevensport. I answered readily. She seemed familiar somehow, very friendly, and I had no qualms about telling her everything I knew. Father Cidron was very upset when we told him. He was certain that I had been bewitched by this woman, for a witch she must be, if she could enter my dreams thus. This frightened me, but I could not imagine that the woman would harm us in any way. I could sense that she was good, that her purpose was well-intentioned.

 

We followed her tracks – father Cidron was determined to capture and interrogate her – and we ended up in a village, where the mayor’s son had been seduced and abducted by a woman identical to the woman we sought. Father Cidron was hot on the trail, and in a small cabin in the forest we found the young man in a daze. Then the woman appeared and Tierry and father Cidron set on her. Alex refused to join the chase as he felt the same goodwill towards her, as I did. The hunt was gastly. I ran after them, and at times I truly think that I saw them as bloodhounds chasing a deer. As I think back on it now, it seems to be in a haze, almost dreamlike. Had I known then that I was running towards my making or transfiguration? No, and had I known, I don’t think I would have stopped. When I saw them again they had reached some rugged cliffs that the woman had begun to climb, father Cidron close behind her, and Tierry further down. In terror I screamed a strange word that appeared out of the blue in my mind: ‘Fienna!’ It was her name or her title or… I don’t know – it was her, it was what defined her. She stopped where she was. Stood absolutely still, and then – in a smooth deliberate movement – she let herself fall from the heights. Horrified I saw her plumage to her death almost at my feet. I fell to my knees next her, and discovered that she wasn’t quite dead. A ragged breathing proved that life had not yet left her, though it should have. Then I felt something in my mind, a gentle nudging, a request to enter, and I bade her welcome…

 

Then she died. Or rather; her body did. Her soul was in me, a gentle visitor. I could not talk to her, could only feel her like an inner shirt or bracelet – a presence, elusive and invisible, but there at all times. And without knowing it I had become what many a northlander later called Two-woman – the woman with two souls.

 

Tierry and father Cidron returned to us. I just sat perfectly still at their feet. I felt that if I moved or spoke father Cidron would realize what had happened and burn me instead. But he saw nothing but a woman dead at his feet – and that puzzled me. If he was so gifted by the Light, should he not have seen it? He burned her body along with the cabin, where we had found the young man. We watched the flames roar and sear – with dread on my part. Tierry had to hold on to the young man we had found – he was screaming and flailing at Tierry, wanting to enter the burning house to be with her. But Tierry held on and we stayed until nothing was left but embers. Then we returned the young man to his village, but he was quite mad by then. He claimed that he had not been abducted, but had gone with her willingly, that he had loved her. I wish I could have asked Fienna what really had happened, what her business with the young man had been. I honestly could not believe that she had meant him any harm.